Bike Tour 2017 – Dresden to Berlin Section

June 26 – Strehla 61 km

Cool, cloudy day – perfect for riding. Pretty river path. Explored Meissen on the way. Pleasant square and castle high on a hill.

Castle in Meissen

June 27 – Torgau

Another cool day, also cloudy. On the way we met a young woman who was from Dresden and now living in Montreal.  She gave us some of the horrific details of the fire bombing of Dresden at the end of WWII. Torgau was at the centre of the reformation movement in the 16th century which featured Martin Luther. Very nice castle as well as a church which dates back to the 13th centuy.  Lots of history here.

Castle in Torgau.  

More pictures here .

June 28 – Lutherstadt Wittenberg ( 72 km – flat path)

Passed through lots of little villages and farm fields. Rode through a light thunderstorm and put on some rain gear for the only the second time this trip. We did have about 5 km of fairly busy highway but most of route was off road paths or along quiet roads.

Lutherstadt Wittenberg is a pretty town with a castle and two very large churches. They are currently hosting a large exposition to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation.

Castle in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

More pics here .

June 29 – Potsdam 44 km cycle plus train

We now leave the high quality Elberadweg (Elbe bike route). Heading north, we followed gravel paths and roads for about 10 km – a marked drop in quality from the Elbe route. At a state boundary, conditions improved and we were treated to paved paths most of the way to Bad Belzig. Here is an interesting situation where a paved cycle path was constructed beside a gravel road (which I assume is a forest service road). 

This makes a lot of sense, but one would be hard pressed to find something like this in Canada.

Visited Berg Rabenstein castle and also a castle in Bad Belzig. 

Berg Rabenstein Castle south of Potsdam

Due to start of heavy rain and long distance remaining, we decided to take a train to Potsdam.  We were surprised that our scheduled train was cancelled due to technical difficulties and we had to wait an additional hour for the next train. We were doubly surprised that the messages and announcements of the technical difficulties were very misleading and caused us further delay. Note, however, that rail service in most of Europe is for the most part exceptionally good, especially when compared to Canada. If we missed a Via train in Vancouver, we would have to wait 2 or 3 days for the nect one. Also, there are almost always special spots for bikes on most regional European trains.

June 30 – To Berlin

We started the day by exploring Potsdam. We first visited a Dutch style street which was created by Flemish peole who moved there in the 1730s. Next we explored a small portion of the very expansive Sanssouci Palace grounds which includes many buildings (and a windmill!) and vast gardens. Then rode down a car free street (why don’t we have these in Canada?) and finally the ostentatious square.

Dutch style street in Potsdam

Our ride into Berlin was mostly follewing the EuroVelo 7 route. It started off in a wide “Fahradstrasse” – a street where cars are allowed but may not pass bikes. Then wide bike lanes. One section was on a rough paved path though there was the option to ride on the wide-ish 30 k/h street which we soon chose.  After this, there was a mix of bike facilities including a narrow one-way bike path marked on the sidewalk. This worked quite well as long as there were not cars parked immediately beside or even intruding into the path. 

Sidewalk divided into ped and bike sections

More pics here

July 1 – Extra day in Berlin

Took the S-Bahn (metro) to Brandenburg gate. Then went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This is a massive but quite abstract memorial which covers 19,000 square metres. The information exhibit meant more to me since it provided detailed information of the holocaust.  It is very difficult to understand how fellow human beings could devise such a massive genocide and also how so many could participate in this horrendous undertaking.  This memorial was particularly meaningful to me since my parents sheltered 5 Jewish people in their farmhouse in the Netherlands during WWII   Over 100,000 Dutch Jews were not so lucky.  

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

We spent the rest of the day exploing Berlin.

More pics here .

Next section is Bike Tour 2017 – Berlin to Copenhagen

Bike Tour 2017 – Prague to Dresden

June 20 – Melnik – 75 km

From our hotel in southern Prague, we rode on a mostly off road path (cycle route A22) till we met cycle route A2 at the Vltava River. This cycle route is also part of EuroVelo 7 (EV7) which connects Malta and Norway.  We then rode EV7 All the way to Melnik. We rode through the heart of Prague on an off-road path and cotinued on a mixture of riverside paths and quiet roads.

We were surprised when the signage had us go up a set of stairs and cross over a pipeline bridge.

We found out later that there was a alternate route which involved taking a small ferry across  a river.

Melnik is a lovely little town with a picturesque square.  Not as dramatic as Prague, but it is a nice feature of cycle touring that we get to explore these little gems.

Church in Melnik

June 21 – Litomerice 

June 22 – Mezni Louka 75 km

We rode mostly on an excellent path along the Elbe River. Spotted a castle on the way. 

We rode for a few km after crossing into Germany (not so much as a sign to infom us!) and took a small ferry actoss the river to Hrensko on the Czech side. After a 7 km. ride, we arrived at our destination which lies in the heart of Saxon Switzerland National Park which features a number of interesting sandstone formations.

June 23 – Rest day

We took the bus to a trail head and did  6 km. hike. One of the sights was the biggest rock bridge in Europe.

June 24 – To Dresden

After a quick descent from Mezni Louka, we crossed the border into Germany (for the second time)  and entered the pretty German village of Bad Schandau where we again connected with the EV7 path beside the Elbe River. 

Square in Bad Schandau, Germany

We rode most of the way to Dresden on EV7 which was mostly a riverside path or narrow local access road. At Pirna, we decided to switch to the cycle route on the north side of the Elbe. This was OK for a while until we hit a massive festival which blocked our route a few times forcing detours. Bonus was that the festval also caused many streets to be car free. Eventually, we came across a bridge which took us to the path on the south side of the Elbe. This 4m wide paved path took us into the heart of  beautiful Dresden. 

June 25 – Extra day in Dresden – 38 km sidetrip

Today we rode out to Moritzberg Castle north of Dresden. Also saw a nice church.

More pics here.

Cycling Infrastructure in Slovakia

As part of our 2017 Europe cycling tour, my partner Jean and I rode through parts of Slovakia.  We would like to share some of the good cycling infrastructure which we experienced.

We rode on the Slovak side of the Danube between Estergom and Komarno and also entered Slovakia again near Bratislava. We then rode on EuroVelo 13, the Iron Curtain route, north toward the Czech Republic.

Bike routes in Slovakia have nicely spaced rest stops. This one is on EuroVelo 13 north of Bratislava.

In Bratislava, I wad riding in a painted bike lane and came across this van which was parked in the traffic lane. I was totally blown away!

 

Along the Slovak section of EuroVelo 13, there are lots of information boards. This one was about bats and is number 34 in a 50 km section of bike route.

Bike Tour 2017 — Znojmo to Prague Section

June 11 – Znojmo to Vranov nad Dyji – 35 km

We started out by taking a delightful path through a national park. End of route was on a busier highway which was remark)ably wide. Nice castle at picturesque destination.

June 12 Telc – 54 km

Rode mostly on quiet country roads but also a short section of narrow and busy highway. Realised later that there was a parallel bike route. Telc has a lovely castle and pictureque square.

 

June 13 – Trebon

We took the train from Telc to Slavonice since we had cycled most of the route the previous day. We then cycled mostly on the Prague-Vienna Greenway route. We then chose Czech regional route 322 to Chlum U Trebone and then completed the day by riding on Czech national route 122. Portions of our route were on excellent paths – some to cycling highway standard. Other portions were very rough. Here is a movie of one of the good sections: (coming soon)

June 14 –  Cesky Krumlov – 55 km

Explored Trebon in the morning. Very nice car free square. Note all the bikes parked in the middle of the square.

On the way out of Trebon we came across a bike safety training facility. A fellow came over and explained that all students in Czech Republic receive such training at age 10 and receive a cycling license after successful completion of the course. I saw a similar facility like this in Germany a few years ago. Why don’t we have a program like this across Canada?

Rode all the way to Ceske Budejovice on national cycling route 122. Varied levels of quality but much of it was  car-free. Stopped for a look around Ceske Budejovice, then took train to Cesky Krumlov.

June 15 – Extra day in Cesky Krumlov

Many agree that this is one of the prettiest towns in the Czech Republic. It is indeed quite beautiful but also very crowded with tourists.   

*I am writing this post while sitting in a park. A nearby bird is singing away:  Bird song in park in CZ

June 16 – Tyn nad Vltavou

We now come across EuroVelo 7 – the international route which extends between Malta and the northern part of Norway. We rode on EV7 the entire day. Most of the route through the city of Ceske Budejovice is on delightful riverside paths. 

Another day, another castle… Along the way, we stopped at the castle in Hluboka nad Vitavou.

Rest of route was mostly along nicely paved riverside paths which extended to the centre of Tyn nad Vltavou. Here is an example:

The quality of the cycling infrastructure that we have encountered in CZ is way beyond my expectations. So many delightful off road paved paths!

June 18 – Prague

We heard that the cycling route from here to Prague was very hilly and not too interesting, so we cycled 16 km to a train station in Bechyne to catch a train to Prague. Mostly good cycling but a few km were on a rough dirt path beside a river. We followed regional cycling route 1039. 

Village of Bechyne as see from railway bridge

Funky local train to Tabor followed by excellent regional train to Prague. They do make it easy to take one’s bike on the train.

June 19, 20 – Extra days in Prague

We stayed in a penzion in the south part of town. Took metro to town centre – very nice metro system. City is quite impressive but teeming with tourists. Got some escape from the crowds in St Nicholas Cathedral and in the Castle garden. Now I know where Santa originated!

More pics here     
 

Cycling Infrastructure in Hungary

Starting in May, 2017, my partner Jean and I did a longish bike tour between Budapest and Amsterdam. We would like to share some of the good examples of cycling infrastucturethat we encountered along the way. We srart with Hungary.

Budapest is a fairly good cycling city. On leaving the airport, we quickly encountered a path of almost cycling highway quality which lasted for about 5 km.  The path was located between a railway and a freeway, so it had few cross streets.

Rest of the 20 km route from the airport was mostly on quiet streets and on separated and on-street bike lanes.

We encountered an interesting treatment for a one way street with 2-way bike traffic. Most of the street was rougher paving stones but the two bike “lanes” were quite smooth. The bike symbols appears to be brass inlays!

Signage was quite good for the major routes.  We followed EuroVelo 6, an internatinal cycling route which extends between the Atlatic Ocean in France and rhe Black Sea. We first encoutered this route on the South side of the Danube on the western edge of Budapest. For more information on EuroVelo cycling routes please visit www.eurovelo.org .  These routes are mostly on either off road paths and quiet streets, though some bits are still along busy highways without shoulders – they don’t do shoulders in Europe, exept on freeways. EuroVelo 6 is sceduled to be completed in 2019.

Signage on EuroVelo Route 6 ln Budapest

Lots of separated paths, especially along highways. Since highwsys don’t have shoulders, amount of paved surface is about the same as a highway with shoulders but safety and convenience is improved for all users.

A nice touch in a village we passed throgh – a cyclist friendly speef bump! Why do they almost always cover the entire width of the street?

Bike Tour 2017 – Bratislava to Znojmo Section

June 6 – Brartislava to Devin – 14 km

A short ride along and near the Danube to the village of Devin which is located at the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers. Above Devin is the ruins of a castle. This site has evidence of human habitation going back to 5000 BC and including the Romans.

June 7 – Devin to Jakovy – 64 km

Here is a pic that sums up a lot of local history

Section of preserved barbed wire fence along EuroVelo 13 cycling route

My   is parked against a preserved section of the iron curtain – here it is a high barbed wire fence. The bike path is a section of eurovelo 13 – the iron Curtain route. This section is along the Morava river which separates Slovakia and Austria. In the background is one of a string of bunkers which were never used but caused the Nazis to annex the Slovak side of the river before ww2. This section of EV13 was likely a former border patrol road. The bridge is a newish ped cyling bridge crossing the river between Slovakia and Austria. Not too long ago, this area was a no go zone and a person would be shot if attepting to cross the river. Now it is all about the joy of cycling

June 8 – Jakovy to Lednice

Followed EuroVelo 13 mostly along dike-top paths. Starting at Devin, there ate lots of information boards along the route – one every km or two. Here is an example:

The boards contain lots oh local and historical information -this one is about bats.

After skirting through a small coner of Austria near Hohenou, we went along a portion of EuroVelo 9 to Breklev and ended our day in Ludnice in the Czech Republic

Palace in Lidnice

June 9 – to Lednice to Hevlin

Checked out historic John’s Castle. Followed combined EuroVelo 9 and 13 part of the way. Also went along a section of the Vienna-Prague Greenway. Here is a movie of a superb section of the route. It was doubly good since we had a strong tailwind. Here is a movie of Jean cycling along this section:

 Came across an interesting sculpture commemorating those who died while attempting to cross the iron curtain.

A memorial for those that died while attempting to cross the “Iron Curtain”

Later we saw an info saw an info board listing names as well. I find it fascinating that this border area which caused no much conflict and misery in the past now has a delightful cyling route instead of a barbed wire fence

June 10 – Hevlin to  Znojmo
Followed EuroVelo 13 most of the way.  Paved farm roads and a short section of dirt farm path. 

Bike Tour 2017 – Budapest to Bratislava Section

May 22 – Arrive in Budapest

My partner Jean and I landed in Budapest on May 22 after a long flight from Vancouver, Canada.  We brought along our bikes so first order of business was to assemble the bikes.  This was made more difficult due to KLM restriction that require squeezing each one into a bike box.

Prior to travelling, we searched high and low for a bike route from the airport to downtown and were assured that this was impossible to achieve legally without walking 500m along the edge of a freeway. Thanks to maps.me – a great little bike route app, we managed to find a good 20 km route and soon were cycling along a separated bike path located between a freeway and a rail corridor which was close to cycling highway standard.

After 5 km, the route switched to quiet streets.  Near the end of the route, we chose a direct route to our destination and used sidewalks on the busier sections since it was getting late and dark.

We spent 3 days exploring the city.  A must do is to buy a one day transit pass which allows use of all transit facilities including a river ferry system.

May 25 – Budapest to Visegard – 55 km

Rode out of the city past the beautiful Parliament buildings and then across ? Island. After crossing the bridge to the south side of the Danube, we soon encountered the EuroVelo 6 bike route. This international bike route extends between France and the Black Sea and much of the route is along the Danube River.  For more information on EuroVelo cycling routes please visit www.eurovelo.org .  Most of the route is either off road or on quiet streets, though we did have a bit along a busy highway with no shoulders – they don’t do shoulders in Europe, exept on freeways. Quality of route ranged from dirt paths which would have been challenging in rainy conditions to super delightful paved paths beside the river. There were also sections along quiet streets and also a short secrion on a natrow highway.

May 26 – Visigrad to Komarno – 55 km

 We followed EuroVelo 6 along the south/west side of the Danube until Esztergom. Portions of the route were on idyllic paths besisde the river.  At Estergom we we crossed the river to ?, Slovakia.  We continued on the slovak side until Komarno. A large portion on the Slovak side was on relativwly new paved paths of high quality.  Every 5 to10 km, we encountered a rest area which had a shelter, bike racks and an information board – very civilized! Pic coming soon.

May 27 – Komarno to Gyor – 55 km

We stayed 2 days in Gyor.  Gyor has a lovely old town ccertr which is car free. Pic to come.

May 29 – Gyor to Bratislava – 45 km

We stayed three days in Bratislava.

Castle with Danube River in foreground

June 1 to 6  – Side trip by train to Tatra Mountains